Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review: The Year of Shadows

The Year of ShadowsAuthor: Claire Legrand
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

I’d never had to shop at a charity store before. No one I knew had ever had to either. I’d have to go back to school in two days being the girl who shops at a charity store. On top of the girl whose father is going crazy, who draws weird pictures all the time, who lives in a symphony hall like some kind of stray animal. The girl whose mom left.

If the Maestro wouldn’t take care of us, I would. And if he wouldn’t give me and Nonnie a real home, I’d do my best to make us one.

If I could make sense of ghosts, if I could solve that, I could solve anything.

Maybe if I figured out where this one puzzle piece went, I could find the rest of them and somehow put my life back together.

Olivia Stellatella is being forced to move into a concert hall with her neglectful father, the maestro of a failing orchestra, as well as her grandmother and her only friend Igor, a stray cat. Olivia is dealing with a lot of issues not typical for children of her age. Her mother has left them and her father isn’t the ideal parent either. Olivia is quite a cynical child that exhibits depressing thoughts and actions. Claire Legrand, whom I had never read before this book, has given us a story that is surprisingly dark, creepy, and deals with issues that one wouldn’t expect to find in a middle grade novel. Legrand clearly is a talented writer that can make readers fall in love with the strangest characters, places, a grumpy, stray cat, and even ghosts!

Olivia reminds me so much of Wednesday Addams, and this is how I pictured her throughout the entire book. Christina Ricci would definitely fit the part. Olivia Stellatella, what a cool name, was one of my favorite parts of this book. She is grumpy, depressing, and severely cynical, but she has good reason to be. I loved watching her character develop as she makes friends in the most unlikely of people. Igor, Olivia’ stray cat, helps bring out the positive side in Olivia. A side that we might not see, as readers, with the help of Igor. He was a great addition to this book as well. I have always said, and I will remain by my statement, that sometimes the best characters are not people!

This was a very engaging story that had my attention from the moment I first heard Olivia’s thoughts. I often felt sorry for her and all the things she had to endure. I am still unsure how I would feel about letting a sixth grader read this book. Maybe an eighth grader, but I am unsure if less mature readers would be able to appreciate this book for everything that it holds!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Simon & Schuster in exchange for my honest review***

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